« ForrigeFortsæt »
infallibly signalised by a yell from her, forming the most expressive commentary upon the misperformance.
When extended trials were made of the animal's acquirements, they were never found to fail, and Poodle became the most famous, impartial, and conscientious connoisseur in the duchy of Hesse. But, as may be imagined, her musical appreciation was entirely negative; if you sung with expression, and played with ability, she remained cold and impassible. But if your execution exhibited the slightest defect, you had her instantly shewing her teeth, whisking her tail, yelping, barking, and growling. For a length of time, there was not a concert or an opera at Darmstadt to which Mr Sand his wonderful dog were not invited, or at least the dog: The voice of the prima donna, the instruments of the band—whether violin, clarionet, hautbois, or bugle—all of them were obliged to execute their parts in perfect harmony, otherwise Poodle looked at its master, erected its ears, shewed its grinders, and howled outright. Old or new pieces, known or unknown to the dog, produced on it the same effect.
It must not be supposed that the discrimination of the creature was confined to the mere execution of musical compositions. Whatever may have been the case at the outset of its training, its ultimate and perfected intelligence extended even to the secrets of composition. Thus, if a vicious modulation, or a false relation of parts, occurred in a piece of music, the animal shewed symptoms of uneasy hesitation ; and if the error was continued, it infallibly gave the grand condemnatory howl. In short, Poodle was the terror of all the middling composers of Darmstadt, and a perfect nightmare to the imagination of all poor singers and players. Sometimes Mr S— and his friends took a pleasure in annoying the canine critic, by emitting all sorts of discordant sounds from instrument and voice. On such occasions, the creature lost all self-command, its eyes shot forth fiery flashes, and long and frightful howls responded to the immelodious concert of the mischievous bipeds. But the latter required to be careful not to go too far; for when the dog's patience was tried to excess, it became altogether wild, and flew fiercely at the tormentors and their instruments.
This dog's case is a very curious one, and the attendant phenomena not very easy of explanation. From the animal's power of discerning the correctness of musical composition, as well as of execution, one would be inclined to imagine that Mr S in training his dog, had only called into play faculties existing (but latent) before, and that dogs have in them the natural germs of a fine musical ear. This seems more likely to be the case, than that the animal's perfect musical taste was wholly an acquirement, resulting from the training. However this may be, the Darmstadt dog was certainly a marvellous creature, and we are surprised that, in these exhibiting times, its powers were not displayed on a wider stage.
The operatic establishments of London and Paris would perhaps have been greatly the better of a visit from the critical Poodle.
It is now settled, as a philosophical question, that the instruction communicated to dogs, as well as various other animals, has a hereditary effect on the progeny. If a dog be taught to perform certain feats, the young of that dog will be much easier initiated in the same feats than other dogs. Thus, the existing races of English pointers are greatly more accomplished in their required duties than the original race of Spanish spaniels. Dogs of the St Bernard variety inherit the faculty of tracking footsteps in snow. A gentleman of our acquaintance, and of scientific acquirements, obtained, years ago, a pup which had been produced in London by a female of the celebrated St Bernard breed. The young animal was brought to Scotland, where it was never observed to give any particular tokens of a power of tracking footsteps until winter, when the ground became covered with snow. It then shewed the most active inclination to follow footsteps; and so great was its power of doing so under these circumstances, that, when its master had crossed a field in the most curvilinear way, and caused other persons to cross his path in all directions, it nevertheless followed his course with the greatest precision. Here was a perfect revival of the habit of its Alpine fathers, with a degree of speciality as to external conditions, at which, it seems to us, we cannot sufficiently wonder.
A habit of close observation, with or without instruction, leads dogs to reason on the circumstances by which they are affected. Dogs, for example, on the banks of the large rivers in the southern states of America, practise a method of deceiving alligators. When about to cross a river, the dog barks loudly, to bring the watchful alligators to the spot; having by this ruse withdrawn his enemies to a wrong point, he runs to another part of the bank, and goes over in safety.
There are few persons who have not seen mendicants guided by dogs through the winding streets of a city to the spot where they are to supplicate alms from passengers. Mr Ray, in his Synopsis of Quadrupeds, informs us of a blind beggar who was led in this inanner through the streets of Rome by a dog. This faithful and affectionate animal, besides leading his master in such a manner as to protect him from all danger, learned to distinguish the streets and houses where he was accustomed to receive alms twice or thrice a week. Whenever he came to any of these streets, with which he was well acquainted, he would not leave it till a call had been made at every house where his master was usually successful in his petitions. When the mendicant began to ask alms, the dog lay
down to rest; but the man was no sooner served or refused, than the dog rose spontaneously, and without either order or sign, proceeded to the other houses where the beggar generally received some gratuity. 'I observed,' says Mr Ray, 'not without pleasure and surprise, that when a small copper coin was thrown from a window, such was the sagacity and attention of this dog, that he went about in quest of it, took it from the ground with his mouth, and put it into the old man's hat. Even when bread was thrown down, the animal would not taste it, unless he received it from the hand of his master.'
Dogs, however, will go greater lengths than assist their masters in begging. An English officer, who was in Paris in 1815, mentions the case of a dog belonging to a shoe-black, which brought customers to its master. This it did in a very ingenious, and scarcely honest manner. The officer, having occasion to cross one of the bridges over the Seine, had his boots, which had been previously polished, dirtied by a poodle-dog rubbing against them. He, in consequence, went to a man who was stationed on the bridge, and had them cleaned. The same circumstance having occurred more than once, his curiosity was excited, and he watched the dog. He saw him roll himself in the mud of the river, and then watch for a person with well-polished boots, against which he contrived to rub himself. Finding that the shoe-black was the owner of the dog, he taxed him with the artifice; and, after a little hesitation, he confessed that he had taught the dog the trick in order to procure customers for himself. The officer being much struck with the dog's sagacity, purchased him at a high price, and brought him to England. He kept him tied up in London some time, and then released him. The dog remained with him a day or two, and then made his escape. A fortnight afterwards, he was found with his former master, pursuing his old trade of dirtying gentlemen's boots on the bridge.
That dogs should, on occasions such as that now related, find their way alone, for hundreds of miles, by roads with which they can have little or no acquaintance, and even across seas and ferries, is one of the most surprising features in their character; though cats, as is well known, will undertake equally remarkable adventures. Mr Jesse, in his Gleanings of Natural History, gives an instance of this sagacity, for which he says he was indebted to Lord Stowell. "Mr Edward Cook, after having lived some time with his brother at Tugsten, in Northumberland, went to America, and took with him a pointer dog, which he lost soon afterwards, while shooting in the woods near Baltimore. Some time after, Mr and Mrs Cook, who continued to reside at Tugsten, were alarmed at hearing a dog in the night. They admitted it into the house, and found that it was the same their brother had taken with him to America. The dog lived with them until his master returned home, when they mutually recognised each other. Mr Cook was never able to trace by what
vessel the dog had left America, or in what part of England it had been landed. This anecdote confirms others which I have already mentioned relative to dogs finding their way back to this country from considerable distances. Lieutenant Shipp, in his Memoirs, mentions the case of a soldier in India, who, having presented his dog to an acquaintance, by whom he was taken a distance of four hundred miles, was surprised to see him back in a few days afterwards. When the faithful animal returned, he searched through the whole barracks for his master, and at length finding him asleep, he awoke him by licking his face.
In Turkey, dogs form associations for mutual defence and aggression. Each quarter of Constantinople has (or, at least, had) its own dogs, which will not tolerate the intrusion of dogs from other quarters, though all will occasionally unite against a common enemy. Anecdotes are related of dogs in our own country seeking the assistance of neighbour dogs to punish injuries they have sustained ; from which we may know that they possess a means of discovering their intentions to each other. A remarkable case of this kind is related in the Cyclopædia of Natural History: A gentleman residing in Fifeshire, and not far from the city of St Andrews, was in possession of a very fine Newfoundland dog, which was remarkable alike for its tractability and its trustworthiness. At two other points, each distant about a mile, and at the same distance from this gentleman's mansion, there were two dogs, of great power, but of less tractable breeds than the Newfoundland one. One of these was a large mastiff, kept as a watch-dog by a farmer, and the other a staunch bull-dog that kept guard over the parish mill. As each of these three was lord-ascendant of all animals at his master's residence, they all had a good deal of aristocratic pride and pugnacity, so that two of them seldom met without attempting to settle their respective dignities by a wager of battle.
The Newfoundland dog was of some service in the domestic arrangements, besides his guardianship of the house; for every forenoon he was sent to the baker's shop in the village, about half a mile distant, with a towel containing money in the corner, and he returned with the value of the money in bread. There were many useless and not over-civil curs in the village, as there are in too many villages throughout the country; but in ordinary the haughty Newfoundland treated this ignoble race in that contemptuous style in which great dogs are wont to treat little ones. When the dog returned from the baker's shop, he used to be regularly served with his dinner, and went peaceably on house-duty for the rest of the day.
One day, however, he returned with his coat dirtied and his ears scratched, having been subjected to a combined attack of the curs while he had charge of his towel and bread, and so could not defend himself
. Instead of waiting for his dinner as usual, he laid down his charge somewhat sulkily, and marched off; and, upon looking
after him, it was observed that he was crossing the intervening hollow in a straight line for the house of the farmer, or rather on an embassy to the farmer's mastiff. The farmer's people noticed this unusual visit, and they were induced to notice it from its being a meeting of peace between those who had habitually been belligerents. After some intercourse, of which no interpretation could be given, the two set off together in the direction of the mill; and having arrived there, they in brief space engaged the miller's bulldog as an ally.
The straight road to the village where the indignity had been offered to the Newfoundland dog passed immediately in front of his master's house, but there was a more private and more circuitous road by the back of the mill. The three took this road, reached the village, scoured it in great wrath, putting to the tooth every cur they could get sight of; and having taken their revenge, and washed themselves in a ditch, they returned, each dog to the abode of his master ; but when any two of them happened to meet afterwards, they displayed the same pugnacity as they had done previous to this joint expedition.
It does not appear, however, that all casual, or apparently casual, interferences of dogs for the benefit of each other pass off in this momentary way; for there is another well-authenticated anecdote of two dogs at Donaghadee, in which the instinctive daring of the one by the other caused a friendship, and, as it should seem, a kind of lamentation for the dead, after one of them had paid the debt of nature. This happened while the government harbour or pier for the packets at Donaghadee was in the course of building, and it took place in the sight of several witnesses. The one dog in this case also was a Newfoundland, and the other was a mastiff. They were both powerful dogs; and though each was good-natured when alone, they were very much in the habit of fighting when they met. One day they had a fierce and prolonged battle on the pier, from the point of which they both fell into the sea ; and as the pier was long and steep, they had no means of escape but by swimming a considerable distance. Throwing water upon fighting dogs is an approved means of putting an end to their hostilities; and it is natural to suppose that two combatants of the same species tumbling themselves into the sea would have the same effect. It had; and each began to make for the land as he best could. The Newfoundland, being an excellent swimmer, very speedily gained the pier, on which he stood shaking himself; but at the same time watching the motions of his late antagonist, which, being no swimmer, was struggling exhausted in the water, and just about to sink. In dashed the Newfoundland dog, took the other gently by the collar, kept his head above water, and brought him safely on shore. There was a peculiar kind of recognition between the two animals—they never fought again ; they were always together : and when the Newfound